Leicester Square is finally a square again!

In the past few weeks I’ve been under the plague of an unstoppable force that extends across the breadth of the United Kingdom. That force is… EXAMS! That’s right, I’ve been sailing/storming/stalling through my GCSEs which will explain the lack of recent material on here. I’m working on it. Soon for the pleasure of your eyes you will be able to read about my exploits at an Indiana Jones marathon, perhaps indulge in my idea of a ‘classic movie’ (I haven’t done one of those in ages) or anything else which I see fit to post.

What I’m going to talk about now, however, is that place in London known as Leicester Square, home to about a thousand different cinemas and a pleasant, though small, greenery area. Well, that’s what it was like, until some educated chaps decided to board up the entire place for maintenance, turning what was previously known as a ‘square’ into an awkwardly-shaped cigarette smoke-laden mosh pit, forcing distributors to hold their premieres elsewhere (which nonetheless resulted in a truly memorable sight of Trafalgar Square populated by obsessed hormonal teenagers for the final Harry Potter). Having only discovered the Empire’s gargantuan Screen 1 and the cult delight of the Prince Charles Cinema relatively recently, I have more memories of being caught up in a cramped myriad of tourists, businessmen and cinemagoers than the original square itself. It will come as no surprise, therefore, that when I heard Leicester Square was re-opening this weekend, I hiked over as soon as I could.

Well, sort of a square.

Did my frenzied excitement pay off? Well, to an extent, yes. It was nice to be able to breathe for once whilst in the area and the trees looked very nice. But to my mind the construction workers that had halted movement for months didn’t really seem to, well… do much. There was the added addition of several vertical jet fountains which lapped around noisily, and a distracting tent feature, but were they necessary? Everyone who walked through the square seemed to do so without the slightest inkling that anything had occurred. Perhaps it’s my fractured memories of the old square fading ‘like tears in rain’ – rocking the Blade Runner reference there – but there seemed to be no developments which were really needed beforehand.

Yay. Fountains.

Never mind. I did enjoy some of the events that were going on, despite the fact that barely anyone was there. The renowned stuntman Vic Armstrong gave a very entertaining interview, talking about his escapades in doubling for Bond, Indiana Jones, Superman and countless other film characters. After that, two Empire Magazine reviewers, Ian Nathan and Ian Freer, gave a fascinating insight into their jobs in ‘Life of a Film Critic’, which included their hilarious revelation of “the better the sandwiches at a press screening, the worse the film”, as well as a trailer for the upcoming Hobbit movie. You can tell why that would appeal to me…

Vic Armstrong – one of the greatest stuntmen of all time.
Ian Nathan and Ian Freer

So, yes, it was a fun and dehydrating experience overall, and thankfully the London tube trains weren’t too exhaustive. I’ll be back in Leicester Square in a couple of weeks for the Indy Marathon (which thankfully excludes the fourth film) at the Prince Charles Cinema. In conclusion I have to say that despite my reservations with some of the developments it is truly fantastic for the square to be back, and I look forward to basking in its warmth in the years of cinemagoing to come.

No more barriers!

P.S. I have a new camera. Click on the images, they grow so much larger, it’s incredible…

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News – Alfred Hitchcock Retrospective

This is the first time I’ve done anything on this blog in the way of film news, not just because I don’t quite have enough time, but also because there are several dozen other places where you can read about every upcoming production, every cinematic hint, every update on directors with relative ease. However, the most recent development by the BFI in terms of film programming filled me with indescribable excitement, and I just had to write something brief about it.

This summer, to perhaps tie in with the Olympics season and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, the BFI Southbank (or, National Film Theatre) will show all of Alfred Hitchcock’s surviving films in a retrospective the scale of which has never yet before been seen at the repertory cinema. That’s right, all 58 films that are available, from the newly restored The Pleasure Garden to his final feature, Family Plot, will be shown over a period between August and October, while some of his earlier silent films will also be shown across the country with live scores.

The Pleasure Garden - Hitchcock's first film, newly restored.

The BFI will be ‘celebrating the genius of a man who, it said, was as important to modern cinema as Picasso to modern art or Le Corbusier to modern architecture. Heather Stewart, the BFI’s creative director, said: “The idea of popular cinema somehow being capable of being great art at the same time as being entertaining is still a problem for some people. Shakespeare is on the national curriculum, Hitchcock is not.“‘

Psycho - a compelling cinematic experience.

For me, this is an astonishing move. I was brought up on Hitchcock movies and they were among my first introduction to what might be called ‘classic cinema’. My mother showed me all his most iconic features and even took me to see North by Northwest at the NFT, my first trip to that brilliant cinema which continues to shape my film choices to this day. As I’ll (hopefully) be a BFI member by August, I will go and see as many Hitchcock movies as I can. That’s right, morning, afternoon and evening, I’ll be there, sitting in one of the three screens, helping to celebrate one of the greatest and most influential filmmakers that ever lived. And this blog will be home to my excited self, reviewing every film I see and complaining about my subsequent lack of bank balance. I hope you’ll look forward to it.

'Drama is life with the dull bits cut out.' - Alfred Hitchcock